At a recent adventure show a speaker discussed all of the places you should visit before you die. After going through a list, she stopped and said you really only should visit 3. Two should be wherever you want but the first and number one thing you should do is go on Safari in Africa. It is truly a life transforming experience. For those that know me you know I could not agree more. (photo right: Manza Bay ~ Alan Feldstein/Infinite Kayak Adventures)
Getting Away On Safari
People go on safari every year. It is an amazing experience to see lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, gazelles, monkeys and all the other animals that continue to roam the vast plains while staying at beautiful camps and lodges with comfortable beds, toilets, showers and great food. It is life affirming to witness the “circle of life." I have done it several times and never tire of it. However after several days of seeing the wildlife, seeing other people like you who are experiencing the same thing one desires to get away, have different experiences, collect different stories and escape to areas of Africa that few people have the opportunity to see. In 2008 on a safari with my kids I found the best way to do that - combine my love of Africa with my love of kayaking by going to the coast to paddle in the remote, warm-water, unspoiled bays of the Indian Ocean.
Infinite Kayak Adventures
Tanzania is a very stable country and has been since its independence in 1964 with none of the political unrest that has existed elsewhere. Because it relies heavily on tourism it takes that concern very seriously. One of the things that will make you fall in love with Tanzania like we have are the people – who are open, honest and friendly. The Tanzanians are proud of their country and want you to enjoy it. 25 % of the country is protected for wildlife. Tanzania’s diversity stretches from classic wildlife filled savannah to lush forests, showy mountains, warm beaches, coral reefs and the historical Spice Islands of Zanzibar. Tourism is a major industry in Tanzania accounting for almost 20% of Tanzania’s gross domestic product and now averages about 1 million tourists a year many who include a safari on their visit.
From Wikipedia on Tanzania's environment: Tanzania has considerable wildlife habitat, including much of the Serengeti plain, where the white-bearded wildebeest and other bovids participate in a large-scale annual migration. Tanzania is also home to 130 amphibian and over 275 reptile species, many of them strictly endemic and included in the IUCN Red Lists of different countries.
Tanzania has developed a Biodiversity Action Plan to address species conservation. A recently discovered species of elephant shrew called Grey-faced Sengi was filmed first time in 2005, and it was known to live in just two forests in the Udzungwa Mountains. In 2008, it was listed as "vulnerable" on the 2008 Red List of Threatened Species.
Lake Natron is northern Tanzania is the largest breeding site for the threatened Lesser Flamingo, a huge community of which nest in the salt marshes of the lake. Areas of East African mangroves on the coast are also important habitats.
How many people can say I just came back from kayaking in Africa? The answer is very few. But I have and now I'm having a great time sharing this amazing experience with others through my safari company Infinite Kayak Adventures.
I'd Rather Be Kayaking
Most safaris in Tanzania are about 7-10 days and you spend most of your time in vehicles viewing animals and driving from location to location. After a while you desire to get out of the vehicle and be active. Therefore it is not uncommon after a safari, because of the distance traveled, to extend your time doing something else. I have tracked chimps in the Mahale Mountains and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Both were amazing.
Until a couple of years ago one thing that had never been offered - that I and my business partner are the first to do - are several days of comfortable lodge based kayaking in warm beautiful bays off the coast of Tanzania. (Photo right: Alan Feldstein/Infinite Kayak Adventures ~ Native greetings on a remote lake)
In February, 2009 I went on a week long trip with my Tanzanian based business partner. We went to explore various routes and visit lodges to make sure they would be acceptable to our clients. After paddling Lake Nyumba Ya Mungu (Lake of the Gods) we headed to the port city of Tanga. Tanga was a major strategic port for the British in WWII and is still bustling. From Tanga it is a short drive north where the private, unspoiled Fish Eagle Lodge is located. Fish Eagle Lodge is beautiful. The rooms are spacious and fully equipped with solar heated showers, flush toilets and a lovely deck to sit out on and have afternoon tea, brought to you every day. In the main lodge, where you have your meals, you can enjoy a cold beer after a paddle and meet staff from the local village. The lodge also has an observation deck to view the unspoiled coastline.
Lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean and cries of the Bush Baby, I arose rested to a delicious full breakfast and then took a short 15-20 minute drive to one of the many coves of Manza bay. We set up our kayaks and got ready to go. Because there are no kayaks in Tanzania our boats are handmade by my partner Steve Chumbley.
We began paddling into the bay to its mouth, taking detours along the way down shallow mangrove tributaries where the bird life is abundant. We observed egrets, fish eagles, a goshawk and many other birds. Because it is salt water and shallow there are no hippos, crocs, sharks or any other similar type of creature to worry about. Kayaking down these groves truly is a journey through an unspoiled, seldom explored, area of the world. The only sounds heard are the birds joined by the splash of the paddle as it dips into still waters. You can't help but be relaxed and also giddy with the feeling of being out in a part of nature few people ever experience..
As we make our way down bay the only other sites on the water are the local fishermen in their wooden sailing Dhows. The design of the Dhow, which has been around for centuries, are simple beautiful wood boats with a triangle sail that utilize the trade winds to carry them along the bay. (photo left: Egret ~ Alan Feldstein/Infinite Kayak Adventures)
Finally we reach the mouth of the bay and land on an unspoiled beach for lunch and to stretch our legs. When I say unspoiled I mean remote and unspoiled. This is not a beach people go to. We are and will be the only ones here. This area is also historical. During WWII the British built stone structures to fool Japanese subs to believe that this area was actually the port of Tanga not 15 miles down the coast. They mined the entrance to the bay to catch Japanese subs. You can explore the stone structures the British built after a delicious lunch prepared by the wonderful friendly Fish Eagle Lodge staff. (photo right: Teena ~ Alan Feldstein/Infinite Kayak Adventures)
After lunch we got back into our kayaks and headed east towards the beach of a local fishing village. It is a short easy paddle with the winds and current taking us right to the beach. Visitors are rare in this part of Tanzania. When I first landed on the beach I imagined what an explorer must have felt when they landed in a strange land and were observed with curious wonder. The local villagers all came out to see us. A group of kids came running out to help me carry my boat. As with everyone I have met in Tanzania they are very friendly and helpful.
As I flew home I reminded myself of the phrase of our company - "Memories are of the things you do not the things you wish you had done." I am so glad I am doing this and will continue to do so and share it with others. It is the best way to see Africa.
Alan Feldstein is the owner of Infinite Kayak Adventures, the only safari company to pair wildlife safaris with ocean kayaking off the Tanzania coast. Alan is also a UCLA kayak instructor and an active member of the Explorers Club and the Adventurers Club of Los Angeles. An accomplished wildlife photographer, his work has appeared in the LA Times, Wavelength Magazine and the 2011 Paddling.net calendar.
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